“I am here forever with these children; I don’t think I’ll be able to take any other job”, this is what 40-year-old Vandhana Yashwanth Jadav said. From the past five years she works as a helper at SPJ Sadhana School for the specially challenged at Peddar Road. She lives in Worli and travels daily by bus for her 9:00 am shift and returns to her family only after 5:00 pm. In school she gets a half hour break for food, while the rest of the time goes in handling the children, feeding them and helping them in washrooms.
“It is not a job for the faint hearted; I took my time to adjust,” confesses Jadav when asked about her five years here. “I used to cry in my 1st year because the children used to scream, cry and even become violent. I used to struggle to control them”, but Jadav stuck on and learned how to distinguish when a child is about to be violent, how to calm him/her down, how to feed them food and also assist them during therapy. She had to learn all of it on job through trial and error, and some things she learned the hard way. One such experience was with a Third standard student named Ashwini. They were on a class excursion and Jadav was on her way to the bus to get lunch when this girl suddenly got violent. “She (Ashwini) just came running and kicked my back, when in pain I turned to see who it is she punched my stomach hard”. People were called to control the child while she fell to the ground writhing in pain. “That was my first lesson and since then the learning hasn’t stopped”.
Jadav has two children, one girl studying in the tenth and one boy studying in the eighth. Her husband works as a peon, struggling with a heart condition. She herself has studied till the eighth std, but wishes to see her children as established professionals. She says more than the salary, the love the children show is more precious; “I treat them as my own”. When asked as to how she spends her time at home Jadav replies, “My life at home is uneventful and boring; since there are no challenges everything is mundane”. She says she loves Marathi shows and movies and likes watching them on weekends with family. “My family is very cooperative and we do all work together”, something she accepts she is blessed with and is thankful for.
“My favourite student is Kashyap, from class two he calls me Aunty Maa”, retorts Jadav when asked about a student she will never forget. “Kashyap is a self-destructive child who has tendencies to hurt himself if he doesn’t like something. When I called him in class for the first time 2 years back he slapped himself twice since then I have been trying with all my might that never happens again and it has not”. Jadav very happily signs off saying, “This place is like home were each one takes care of the other, helping the other learn with dignity”. Strong willed, determined and devoted are words that define Vandhana Yashwanth Jadav.